My dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Last week we witnessed the appalling scenes, so redolent of the
struggle years, of striking soldiers rampaging through Pretoria and
engaged in conflict with the police. One can only shudder at how these
images have further undermined SA's reputation as a reliable
investment destination. This week's bizarre Canadian ruling giving
Brandon Huntley asylum, unfortunately, wrongly conflates the image of
a lawless and anarchical SA.
The right to protest is a fundamental human right provided for in our
Bill of Rights. Last week, even the IFP, witnessed such a protest in
Durban with rubber bullets being fired. But there is a difference
between the right to protest and acts of brazen criminality. Such
acts, some by the protectors of the citizenry, give a false sheen of
legitimacy to criminality.
In SA, a major way of problem-solving is mob rule. When construction
workers go on strike they torch the trucks and damage the site. When
municipal workers strike they burn cars, damage property and dump
rubbish. Some police toyi-toyi and even shoot at each other. This use
of mobs and the impunity of the anonymity of mass action lead to a
breakdown in the rule of law. This, as academics have observed, is a
direct result of the merging of militarised struggle politics with
unions and community organisations.
Analysts chalk the violence up to lack of service delivery, levels of
inequality and other standard epitaphs that are paraded out to explain
every social problem. But this is only part of the story. I am sorry
to say the genesis of the present unhappy state of affairs lies in the
The ANC and UDF had the strategy of ungovernability that was used to
incite the youth and people of the townships to violently rise up
against their oppression. The townships saw a lot of violence in
recent times as apartheid began to unravel. The violence included mob
justice in the form of necklacing, shooting and other violent acts
against those deemed to be the enemy. The unforeseen legacy of the
strategy of ungovernability is what we are seeing today.
I foretold this in the 1980s when I said that in rendering South
Africa ungovernable, it would surely create a nation of ungovernable
people. It appears that areas which experienced the most oppression
and most mobilisation by the ANC and UDF - the townships and specific
informal settlements - are where most of the xenophobic attacks
occurred last year.
I do want to add here that while the IFP rejected the armed struggle,
I always understand that the door of negotiation was firmly slammed
shut, and that many struggle activists felt that political violence
was the only language that the apartheid regime understood.
I often stated that the most honourable thing to do for those who
believed that black South Africa supported the armed struggle, was to
start by sending their own children first out of the country before
recruiting other people's children to join the liberation army.
I told a rally at Jabulani Amphitheatre that the borders of South
Africa are too wide to be well-guarded; that those who wish to join
the liberation army should do so, and that they can easily go through
the fences on our borders, but that they must only make sure that
their clothing does not get torn as they cross the fence. As a result
of my saying this, Minister Piet Koornhof approached me and stated
that the President and members of Cabinet were very upset because I
was encouraging black youth to cross our borders to join uMkhonto
weSizwe. So I empathised with, but would not, and could not, endorse
the armed struggle because I knew where it was going to lead.
Today, the ruling party still fails to provide an overview of this
tragic period in our country's history; an honest overview of where
things went wrong in their organisation. We have yet to hear the
present day ANC-aligned intelligentsia linking the post-1994 levels of
violent crime to the organisation's call to take up arms against
apartheid. Those who expected the language of the struggle to give way
to a more civilised genre after the advent of democracy must have been
disappointed by Peter Mokaba's often repeated call "Kill the farmer,
kill the Boer".
Certain elements in the ruling party have continued to glorify the
struggle violence and, for all practical purposes, have not shirked
from honouring some of the movement's less than kosher heroes such as
the 1985 Amanzimtoti bomber and uMkhonto weSizwe operative Andrew
Zondo who had a primary school named after him near the scene where
his explosive killed five white civilians including two babies.
Despite this bleak backdrop, I believe the need for a 'respect agenda'
is despite our vastly different backgrounds and circumstances, one
that we all share. I would like to take this opportunity to propose
that we inculcate a culture of respect in South Africa, one that is
boldly championed by government but led from the community upwards. I
suggested to Parliament a few years ago, during one of the State of
the Nation debates, that "at a deeper level, we need to go back to
basics and inculcate a respect agenda amongst our youth". "A
transforming society", I said, "need not be an uncivilised society.
The seeds of crime and lawlessness are often sown at a young age. We
must bring back a sense of respect in our schools, communities,
townships and cities". Anti-social behaviour is alien to our African
culture which has always been rooted in a strong sense of respect.
This is not a nostalgic glance back to some misty-eyed arcadia; it has
regulated our society for generations.
So yes, it is acceptable for protestors to protest, but they should do
so with respect for people and property. There is much wisdom in that
old adage "one reaps what one sows."
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi, MP